Ball was born in Ilford, Essex. At the age of 14 he left school to work as a clerk in an advertising agency, but also started taking trumpet lessons. He began his career as a semi-professional sideman in bands, whilst also working as a salesman and for the advertising agency. He turned professional in 1953 and played the trumpet in bands led by Sid Phillips, Charlie Galbraith, Eric Delaney and Terry Lightfoot before forming his own trad jazz band – Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen – in 1958. His dixieland band was at the forefront of the early 1960s UK jazz revival.
In 1961 their recording of Cole Porter’s “Samantha” (Pye 7NJ.2040 – released Feb. 1961) became a hit, and at the end of 1961 they reached No. 2 on both the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and the UK Singles Chart, with “Midnight in Moscow” (Pye 7NJ.2049 – released Nov. 1961). The record sold over one million copies, earning gold disc status. Their next single “March of the Siamese Children” (Pye 7NJ.2051 – released Feb. 1962), from ‘The King and I’, topped the pop music magazine, New Musical Express chart on 9 March 1962, further hits followed and such was their popularity in the UK that Ball was featured, alongside Cliff Richard, Brenda Lee, Joe Brown, Craig Douglas and Frank Ifield, on the cover of the New Musical Express in July 1962, although in the U.S. they remained a ‘one-hit wonder’.
In January 1963, New Musical Express reported that the biggest trad jazz event to be staged in Britain had taken place at Alexandra Palace. The event included George Melly, Diz Disley, Acker Bilk, Chris Barber, Alex Welsh, Ken Colyer, Monty Sunshine, Bob Wallis, Bruce Turner, Mick Mulligan and Ball. The same year, Ball became the first British jazzman to become an honorary citizen of New Orleans, and appeared in the 1963 film Live It Up!, featuring Gene Vincent.
In 1968 the band appeared with Louis Armstrong during his last European tour. Ball later appeared on BBC Television’s highly rated review of the ’60s music scene Pop Go The Sixties, performing “Midnight In Moscow” with his Jazzmen on the show broadcast on BBC 1, on 1 January 1970, and his continued success was aided by guest appearances on every edition of the first six series of the BBC’s Morecambe and Wise Show. He later claimed that the peak of his career was when Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen played at the reception for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
Ball and his band enjoyed one of the longest unbroken spells of success for trad bands, and his status rivals contemporaries Acker Bilk and Chris Barber. Their joint album, The Best of Ball, Barber and Bilk, reached No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart. He has charted fourteen Top 50 hit singles in the UK alone. All such releases were issued on the Pye record label.
In 2001 Ball was part of the recording of an album on the Decca label. It featured Don Lusher, Acker Bilk, John Chilton and the Feetwarmers, John Dankworth, Humphrey Lyttelton and George Melly, and was entitled British Jazz Legends Together.
Ball continued to tour until shortly before his death, his last scheduled concert being, aptly, with Acker Bilk and Chris Barber at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on 21 February 2013. He died at Basildon Hospital, Essex, where he was being treated for pneumonia.
Today the band continue with Kenny’s son at the helm and under the guise of Kenny Ball Junior and his Jazzmen. (by wikipedia)
Kenny Ball’s surprise hit of “Midnight in Moscow” in 1962 helped accelerate the trad jazz movement in England. Already a popular trumpeter, Ball’s hit briefly made him an internationally known figure. This LP mostly has infectious versions of Dixieland standards featuring Ball, trombonist Johnny Bennett and clarinetist Dave Jones. (by Scott Yanow)
A masterpiece of Britsh Jazz in the early 60´s !
Kenny Ball (trumpet, vocals)
Johnny Bennett (trombone)
Ron Bowden (drums)
Dave Jones (clarinet)
Paddy Lightfoot (banjo)
Vic Pitts (bass)
Ron Weatherburn (piano)
01. Midnight In Moscow (Ball/Soloviev-Sedoi/Matusovosky) 2.58
02. Tin Roof Blues (New Orleans Rhythm Kings/Melrose) 4.05
03. My Mother’s Eyes (Baer/Gilbert) 2.35
04. Big Noise From Winnetka (Crosby/Haggart/Rodin/Bauduc) 2.21
05. Yes She Do, No She Don’t (I’m Satisfied With My Girl) (Trent/DeRose) 2.13
06. Puttin’ On The Ritz (Berlin) 3.07
07. American Patrol (Meacham) 3.03
08. Dark Eyes (Traditional) 2.35
09. You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby (Warren/Mercer)
10. Savoy Blues (Ory) 3.50
11. High Society (Copeland/Swan/Green) 6.30